Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Did God Create? What Kind of World is This One? McCall, Piper, and Christianity's Options part 1

Alright, it is time for something new. I want to quickly give some thoughts I’ve had while looking at three articles that I've been reading this past week. Now the blogs on these articles are liable to change, as all opinions here expressed are, but especially on these particular articles because I have not put the time or energy into understanding them as I did with Cohen, and as I have with other writings (I am working through an article much more carefully right now that I hope to blog about later on). If anyone who reads the posts concerning these articles, and my thoughts related to them, and sees anything wrong in the reasoning or any misunderstanding of the material, please comment a correction.
Now, which articles am I speaking of? Well, this past week I have been reading three articles on God’s sovereignty (and things related to it) from Trinity Journal. The first and last articles are from Thomas McCall of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), and the middle article is by John Piper, who is Pastor for Preaching and Vision at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The main issue that is raised in McCall’s first article, in which Piper responds in his, is Piper’s concept of God’s sovereignty and how Piper’s view undermines God’s aseity. Why, you might ask, is McCall calling into question Piper on his view of sovereignty and how is that view undermining God’s aseity? Well, according to McCall, Piper is arguing that this world must exist in order for God to be maximally glorified. Piper rejects this as what he intends, but acknowledges that some things he has said in his published work seem to suggest this conclusion.
Now I, without reading much of Piper, could see fairly clear (before I even read Piper’s response) that Piper was not saying what McCall was saying Piper was saying. I could see that McCall’s “Modal Argument” did not follow if one merely added the term “ad extra” after one of the crucial premises and then adjusted the premises following that one accordingly. And from what I can remember, that was sort of the big argument that was suppose to prove that Piper is undermining God’s aseity, because in that argument, God needed the world in order to be maximally glorified. McCall took Piper to be saying that essentially God needed the world in order to be maximally glorified, whereas Piper was saying that if God was to create, which He could refrain from because of His aseity, but nevertheless, if God created He must create such and such a world. The world that Piper said God must create would of course be the best possible world (or one of the set of best possible worlds, we shall look at this idea later). Let me say a caveat right now that might be leading some astray. I am not a Piper Calvinist, a follower of Piper, or anything of the sort. For the last ten years I have been back and forth over whether a form of Calvinism is what I believe or a form of Arminianism. Right now I have come from being a die hard Calvinist to sort of re-evaluating again what I really believe (that is, which form of orthodox Christianity I believe). That is to say that I really don’t know which I believe is correct (maybe neither) and so I am open to either side, therefore I am not defending Piper out of some loyalty to his theological position.
It is clear from Piper’s response that he is not saying that God needs the world in order to be maximally glorified essentially, and McCall in the last article in this series acknowledges that. The posts, though speaking of God’s sovereignty, and the differences between a Reformed view of sovereignty (which, though it is very tempting, I will not give McCall’s definition of that view of sovereignty and that because it would distract the direction of these posts) and a more simple view (one that is minimally required for all Christians everywhere), has a related theme that is very important to me and probably many people. It is this theme which I want to talk about in my next post.

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